Fantasy land

The ultimate American fantasy is the idea that you can spend today and pay tomorrow. Today consumer debt makes up almost 80% of the national gross domestic product. In 2007, just before the great recession, consumer debt was over 95% of the GDP and personal savings was below 2%. Do you see a connection here? Our “paper economy” is built largely on DEBT. That is not sustainable. The main culprit in 2007 was mortgage debt. Now we see college debt emerging, which I think will be the next bubble to burst. I have said it many times, after income tax, the 30-year mortgage is the worst thing ever to happen to the American family. I know, I have one. The American dream has become the American nightmare. You want to give your kids something of value? Teach them the value of learning a marketable skill. Teach them to live simply and pay for things as they go. Teach them to avoid debt and mortgages. You will be teaching them how to live as free people.


One of my favorite quotes from GK Chesterton: “The new rebel is a sceptic…”

But the new rebel is a sceptic, and will not entirely trust anything. He has no loyalty; therefore he can never be really a revolutionist. And the fact that he doubts everything really gets in his way when he wants to denounce anything. For all denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind; and the modern revolutionist doubts not only the institution he denounces, but the doctrine by which he denounces it. Thus he writes one book complaining that imperial oppression insults the purity of women, and then he writes another book in which he insults it himself. He curses the Sultan because Christian girls lose their virginity, and then curses Mrs. Grundy because they keep it. As a politician, he will cry out that war is a waste of life, and then, as a philosopher, that all life is waste of time. A Russian pessimist will denounce a policeman for killing a peasant, and then prove by the highest philosophical principles that the peasant ought to have killed himself. A man denounces marriage as a lie, and then denounces aristocratic profligates for treating it as a lie. He calls a flag a bauble, and then blames the oppressors of Poland or Ireland because they take away that bauble. The man of this school goes first to a political meeting, where he complains that savages are treated as if they were beasts; then he takes his hat and umbrella and goes on to a scientific meeting, where he proves that they practically are beasts. In short, the modern revolutionist, being an infinite skeptic, is always engaged in undermining his own mines. In his book on politics he attacks men for trampling on morality; in his book on ethics he attacks morality for trampling on men. Therefore the modern man in revolt has become practically useless for all purposes of revolt. By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything.  – G.K. Chesterton

Fire Department billing

If I was a fire chief, I would choose not to bill for services. At the same time, I don’t think the state should tell a local government that they cannot bill for those services. Billing is a local issue to be decided by locals. I have heard several arguments for and against, and there are convincing issues on both sides.  I don’t pretend to understand all of them because I don’t work in local government.  As we talk about the financial challenges that come with all the different services we provide now, the discussion moves to this question: what services is the fire department required to perform?  The answer to this question will be different depending on where you are in this state; 46 counties, 46 different answers.  At one time, our mission was simple – we respond to fires.  Fast forward to the present day, our services have been expanded to include hazardous materials response, vehicle extrication, technical rescue and the list goes on. What do the citizens we serve expect of us? What will they say if we start billing for services? Some departments have been billing for years and don’t hear any complaints from their citizens because most bills are sent directly to the insurance company. One thing I would like to eliminate is frivolous billing. We don’t like to talk about it, but I know it happens. If you run a call and perform a significant task, and your organization bills, then bill. But don’t send a bill for that fender bender when you were only there for ten minutes and barely got off the truck.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this emerging issue so please share your comments below. Be constructive and positive and keep the conversation going.

I was reminded about something today

Today I was reminded how much the South Carolina fire service cares about its own. From June 2005 until August 2011, I had the privilege to serve as the State Mobilization Coordinator, and during those six years, I participated in 15 mobilization activations. Many of them were multi-day incidents, and two of them were line-of-duty death responses. Some of you chiefs reading this article may have been on the receiving end of my phone call on a weekend, in the middle of the night or while on vacation (yes, that happened once). Time after time, our fire service, without hesitation, has responded to the call for help from one of their neighbors. During the Chance Zobel line-of-duty death response, the Columbia Fire Department was preparing to request staffing assistance from Mobilization for the day of the funeral. One Division Chief asked me, “How much is too much to ask for?” My response was simple, “Ask for what you need, and our fire service will do the rest.” My confidence was based on my experiences during the Charleston 9 response. I had seen our fire service do amazing things.

Today, the Ekom Fire Department in Laurens County received a call they never expected.  This time, “their home” was on fire, and by the time they arrived, there wasn’t much they could do. The apparatus were inside along with many volunteers’ turnout gear, and it appears they lost it all. As the news of the fire spread, our cell phones started blowing up. The callers didn’t ask for the latest information; they were calling to offer help. One upstate chief said, “we’ve got two engines, fully-equipped, we can send them today.” Another chief offered gear and equipment, and the list goes on and on.  I am humbled to be able to serve such a noble profession. Today I was reminded how much our fire service cares about its own.

This article was originally published on March 28, 2013.

What is Mutual Aid Leadership?

It’s an idea.

It’s an idea that we need to work together to train better leaders.  Mutual aid is about helping our neighbors, and I think we need to help our neighbors train leaders. Who is your neighbor? If you are reading this, then you are my neighbor.  I want to meet you where you are, share the mistakes I’ve made and lessons learned, so together we can inspire men and women to become better leaders.

Here is the basic outline for Mutual Aid Leadership:

  1. Start with why
    • Your organization has a mission statement, what about you?
  2. Leaders on the home-front
    • Your home life effects your work life.
  3. Health: mental and physical
    • Physical fitness and mental fitness are directly related.
  4. Leadership and character are connected
    • What are the character traits of good leaders?
  5. Develop your vision and share it
    • How does your team know where you’re going if you haven’t shared it?
  6. Rethink your org chart
    • Who is at the top of your org chart? Who cares?
  7. Learn to say “no”
    • It’s easy to say “yes” to every new thing that comes along.
  8. Networking and relationships are key
    • You plan for mutual aid response, and you should plan your network too.
  9. Models and mentors
    • You need models and mentors for your life.

Want to be a part of this?  Contact me today, and let’s get started!